It’s open season on brides, and many are afraid to admit this is true.

In fairness, the attitude is a backlash to the dreaded Wedding Industrial Complex.  People are sick and tired of the mounting expectations that SOME brides (and, to a lesser extent, grooms) place on their bridal parties, that they’re shouting back, NO.  No, it is not acceptable to expect me to shell out thousands and thousands of dollars just to be in a wedding, and be at your beck and call.

And, they’re right.  It’s not.  Certain bridal sites that shall remain nameless continue to hock too-expensive dresses, “ideas” for “destination” bachelor and bachelorette parties that are well out of the budget of many bridal party members, extravagant showers that mothers (or fathers) of the bride and groom insist on (but will not help pay for) to impress their friends and family … and on and on and on.  I agree, these things are not okay.

But.  Let me let you in on a little secret.  Most brides don’t expect this. 

Sure, enough do to make this prevalent, but it’s far less prevalent than the WIC will have us believe.  And, even if some of these things are going on, how much of it is on the bride’s orders?  Odds are, not as much as we’re led to believe by the anti-WIC.

“Channamasala” wrote a phenomenal guest post over on Offbeat Bride a while back outlining how the term “Bridezilla” is overused and, quite frankly, derogatory.  It underlines that most “demands” a bride is making are generally reasonable, that it’s normal for women to be stressed out, and that you are not a bridezilla for standing your ground.  This post was published shortly after I got engaged, and it was incredibly empowering.  It really helped me to keep perspective in standing my ground and centering my feelings.

But I think we need to go a step further.  While I don’t think that brides have a right to walk all over their bridesmaids, I also think a lot of women need an attitude adjustment about what it means to be a bridesmaid, and, more importantly, a good friend. 

As you all well know, I’m addicted to Carolyn Hax.  In her most recent chat, there were a lot of talk about weddings … unsurprising, as this time of year (Thanksgiving/Christmas season thru Valentine’s Day) is statistically the most popular time of year to get engaged.  Those who got engaged over Christmas are now settling on a date, their bridal party, and a venue (I know we were, this time last year).  So, I was unsurprised to see comments and questions about this in this week’s chat.

Bridesmaid-zilla?: Hi Carolyn,

I think I have a new one for you: As a bridesmaid in my future sister in law’s wedding, I just got an email from the maid of honor assigning me certain dates on which to send the bride gifts (trinkets? a bottle of wine? who knows?) to “encourage her.” I’m buying a dress, dying shoes to match, traveling for the wedding, and no doubt shelling out for a bachelorette party. Am I being a grinch or is this over the top? Also- the whole “encouragement” thing rubs me the wrong way. You’re marrying the love of your life then having a party with everyone you love- this sounds like a good deal to me; “encouragement” implies that this is a struggle to be gotten through. She’s getting married, not running a marathon or going through chemo. (My dirty lens on this is that I have in fact done both those things- the chemo while planning my own wedding. And I didn’t insist on 6 months of weekly gifts from my bridesmaids. Sheesh.) So, two questions I guess: 1) Am I over-reacting, or is this actually reasonable?, and 2) If it is over the top, is there any way I can say so without totally offending everyone or do I just suck it up? (Technically, we can afford to do this, I just don’t want to. )

Thanks!

Carolyn Hax: 1) there is nothing reasonable about this request;

2) Please respond to the MoH that “encouragement” implies that the bride is going through something terrible, and that if this is so, you’d like to help in some more significant way. (The dyed-to-match shoes support the argument that there’s something dire going on, but don’t include that in your note.)

If she responds in earnest that all is well and the gifts are just about showing the bridesmaid love, then please say clearly that you’re going to decline–no reflection on the bride, you just feel you’re giving enough for the cause already.

BTW, I can’t tell if you’re genuinely wondering whether this is excessive or if you know full well and are baiting me to say horrible things about wedding excess, but, either way, the answer is, yes, this is wedding excess, and the risk of giving offense is not a legitimate argument against saying “no.”

Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I agree with Carolyn’s advice … sort of.  That is, I agree with what she advised the bridesmaid to do.  However, she missed the mark with this comment here:  Please respond to the MoH that “encouragement” implies that the bride is going through something terrible.  Good grief.  While of course this is, overall, a happy occasion, it is by no means sunshine and roses throughout.  Brides-to-be, on top of the stress of planning a large, expensive event, they’re also balancing the expectations of family and loved ones, which often directly conflict with personal morals or preferences, budget, or each other (that is, one family may have vastly different expectations than the other).  It’s incredibly stressful on it’s own, however it is also true that many brides-to-be also struggle with major identity issues once faced with such a monumental event as yoking your future with another human being.  This stress is compounded by the fact that everyone around you expects you to have a haze of bridal bliss, where you are graceful and lovely and laid back, and you are deliriously happy.

Um, yeah.  If this isn’t a time when somoene needs extra support and encouragement, I don’t know what is.

Another reader responded with this:

Re: encouragement for a bride: If I can speak up in defense of the idea that a bride would need encouragement…

Two of my bridesmaids sent me a few sweet, small surprises the week before my wedding (flowers, cookies, a note). It was so, so nice of them, and really helped buck me up during a very stressful week. My (then-)fiance and I had been living with his mom for three weeks. In the Midwest. In a bedroom with no air conditioning. I love his family very dearly, but they were driving me absolutely batsh!t crazy in the final days before the wedding. Yes, I was marrying the love of my life and excited beyond words to do so, but that doesn’t mean that the process didn’t have its moments.

I don’t condone the MOH assigning days/gifts to the wedding party in the way she did, but I can see the thoughtfulness at the core of the idea.

Carolyn somewhat pooh-poohed this response, which I thought was unfair.  The bride in this case was under an unusual amount of stress, of course, but every bride is under “externally imposed stress,” and if she is not?  She’s incredibly lucky.

Of course, the commentary has to be peppered with a response like this:

Bridesmaid-zilla: To show you how out of whack the MoH is, when we got married, I asked my ushers to wear their own tuxes, but I rented the tuxes for the two who didn’t own one. For the gals, my wife took them shopping, gave them the color palette and let them buy non-matching dresses of the same color so that each could have a style that suited them (and I know that at least one them wore the dress for another occasion). We were very conscious of the time and effort our wedding party was putting in for us. WE got THEM gifts as thank yous for helping us celebrate our special occasion and did not get gifts from them.

Yes, definitely bridesmaid-zilla (since MoH is the sister, maybe inspired by bridezilla). This is why family members are not supposed to be hosting events…because it comes off as the in-the-family greed that it really is. Please call them on it…do so politely if you can find a way, but definitely call them on it.

 OH MY GOD, SHUT UP. 

That’s really nice of you, that you paid for your groomsmen’s tuxes (we did, too), and that you were flexible on your bridesmaid’s dresses.  But, please, can we can the self-righteous and self-congratulatory commentary?  One thing has nothing to do with the other.  Also, um, there is no mention of the MoH being the sister.  The FSIL is the writer, and a bridesmaid.  Even if it IS the sister, it’s not “family imposed greed.”  It is the MoH wanting to do something nice for someone dear to her.  Granted, she’s going about it in completely the wrong way, but for everyone to be jumping all over this poor woman (including the bridesmaid) is unfair. 

What’s more unfair?  The implication that the bride is behind this or expects it.  We have no evidence of that.

A few weeks before my wedding, I ordered a bunch of bulk snacks and other assorted goods for assembling our favors from Amazon.  I didn’t use my head when I was ordering – I placed the order on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, and used the “Free Super-Saver Shipping.”  It was not until a few days later, having not received a shipping notice yet, that it occurred to me that this may not get the goods to me in enough time before the wedding.  Sure enough, my expected ship date was a day before the wedding, and the expected arrival date was a week after the wedding!  I immediately penned an email to Amazon, asking to either cancel the order, or modify it to two day shipping.  I got one back telling me that this could not be done because the order was already “processed” (but not shipped?) and it could not be modified.  If I wanted to fix this, I could just refuse to accept the shipment and reorder! 

I was hyperventilating.

I called my mother for a reality check (“I don’t blame you for being upset about this, honey”) and then called Amazon.  I kept my cool, explained to the customer service representative my problem, and took ownership of my own mistake (i.e., not requesting 2-day shipping in the first place).  He was incredibly helpful and even tried to retroactively sign me up for Amazon Prime (he was unable to, but I appreciated the effort nonetheless). 

I bring this up to say, it can be something small that stresses us out, especially so close.  The problem was fixed, however I was still a bit frazzled by a close call (it was not a big deal, in the grand scheme, but it was nonetheless stressful).  I would never expected the trinkets-in-the-mail bit from my bridesmaids, but if I had received a small trinket in the mail from one of my dear friends, it REALLY would have cheered me up that day.  Those couple of weeks prior to the wedding are incredibly frazzled for most brides – moreso than anyone realizes – and that the MoH was trying to think of a way to make the bride smile, I think is incredibly sweet.

If you don’t have the heart for it, or can’t afford it, or what have you, fine.  It’s not expected, it’s just loved ones going above and beyond for their dear friend. We see a lot from the “anti-WIC” that brides should not “expect” anything from their bridesmaids, and I think this is both vague and somewhat unfair.  One shouldn’t expect their friends to blow their personal budgets or put their lives on hold, but conversely I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect your nearest and dearest to be there for you when you are going through a major Rite of Passage.

To the reluctant bridesmaid?  We’re all guilty of being grinchy about this sort of thing.  I don’t fault you, you’re human, but to answer your question:  Yes, you’re being a grinch.  This doesn’t mean you should feel obligated to do this, and it CERTAILY doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t say something (nicely) to the MoH about demanding the other bridesmaids participate or assigning these duties without asking for input, but please try to see this as a show of love and affection, and not take such offense.

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